Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nepal: Bhattarai and Prachanda (Dahal) Revisted

Democracy and Class Struggle says that Bhattarai and Dahal (Prachanda) raised Nepalese Maoism high only to bring it low.

The role of personalities in Marxist Leninist Maoist politics is always problematic and this article by Hisila Yami exposes the contradictions between these contemporary revisionists of Marxism Leninism Maoism.

Democracy and Class Struggle publish this article to remind comrades that real collective leadership was missing in Nepal and personality politics dominated Nepalese Maoism - we find its echoes in Avakianism in the West.

We need to overcome the immaturity of personality politics in MLM and create real collective leaderships and the Nepalese Maoist experience has negative lessons for us in that respect.

It is interesting that Hisila Yami the wife of Bhattarai thinks that a Marxist Gandhi is a compliment for Bhattarai while we regard it has an insult. 

Hisila Yami saying Bhattarai was seeking truth from facts reduces MLM to banal positivism just has the Dengists did in China to destroy Maoism.

In fact she uses the revisionists favourite quote in China.

We welcome comrades views on this article and the lessons we have to learn from Nepalese Maoism which was negatively and strongly influenced by personalities of Bhattarai and Prachanda.

Dahal needed Bhattarai more than Bhattarai needed Dahal. But Dahal was also insecure and scared of Bhattarai

Comrade Post Bahadur Bogati had once described the relations between Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai as such: "They are like two giant elephants that disturb the ground, both when they meet as well as when they part ways." True, when they fought, they fought vigorously.

One of the main reasons they fought was the contradiction between 'line' and 'leadership'. Often it was the line of Bhattarai which was practiced by the party. But the party leader was Dahal, who had a symbiotic relationship with Mohan Baidya, who in turn was against Bhattarai's democratic republic line.

I have been a close observer of many interactions between Dahal and Bhattarai during the people's war. I feel it is my duty to let the public know about their dynamic relationship. I personally felt that the two had different qualities: Dahal was basically a pragmatist and Bhattarai an idealist; Dahal was an extrovert and Bhattarai an introvert. They were like two sides of a river, close but never to meet.

Dahal worked well on practical and tactical issues while Bhattarai concentrated on long-term strategic visions. While Dahal helped militarize the mass, Bhattarai helped in politicizing the same mass. While Bhattarai charted a new political course, Dahal institutionalized it by gathering the required numbers. Cadres saw Dahal as having a heart, while for Bhattarai they said he had a brain. And they sincerely wished these two leaders should work as one.

Indeed, when the two were together, there were positive results. Take the first successful attack on RNA camp in Dang in 2001 which took place after the Second National Conference when the two leaders were together. However, when these two were at loggerheads, there were losses, for example the Khara attack on RNA military barracks in Rukum where PLA lost badly in 2005. This took place when Bhattarai and his team were under house arrest.

It was Dahal who saw the importance of bringing Bhattarai into CPN (Unity Center) for two reasons: one, to increase the support for a protracted people's war and offset Nirmal Lama's line of urban insurrection; two, he needed Bhattarai to improve the public face of CPN (Unity Center), which was otherwise unknown. Bhattarai had ideological clarity and his intellect appealed the middle class and he also had access to both mass and media.

Bhattarai needed Dahal because he needed political power to implement his ideology.

In that case, why should Dahal doubt Bhattarai? Dahal needed Bhattarai more than Bhattarai needed Dahal. But Dahal was also insecure and scared of Bhattarai. That was the principal contradiction I saw during the people's war. I saw Dahal use party instrument to control Bhattarai. On the other hand Bhattarai used ideological clarity, mass appeal, media reach and moral strength to fight against Dahal's tendency to monopolize power. Additionally he used note of dissent and resignation, a kind of 'Satyagraha' style of fight against Dahal.

For this reason I used to call Bhattarai a Marxist Gandhi.

Before joining politics, Dahal wanted to join Royal Nepal Army, but he instead became a school teacher. Bhattarai was interested in cosmology at a young age. But he ended up studying architecture. While studying architecture he toyed with the idea of working as a UN volunteer in Africa, wanting to come back to Nepal to work as a development consultant. However, he soon became a whole-timer in the communist movement he joined on finishing his studies.

At early an age Dahal was subjected to communist ideology, not by choice but by necessity. His father had migrated from the hills. As a result he had to work hard to get his large family, with eight children, settled. Dahal had seen his father roughed up by rich merchants in Chitwan. His father was forced to work in Guwahati, India to support the family.

Unlike Dahal, Bhattarai's early life was relatively stable. His father, with four children, too tried his luck in Chitwan but finding the place hostile, he returned to Gorkha where he had enough land to support his family. His uncle belonged to Nepali Congress and in college most of his friends were also from Congress background; but he never became a Congress member. Good at studies and having enough to eat, he had not seen his father humiliated as well. Thus Bhattarai became communist through choice.

When Bhattarai was the president of All India Nepalese Student's Association in India, Dahal was working in Gorkha as a school-teacher. Incidentally, both belonged to the same School Leaving Certificate batch. While Bhattarai topped the matriculation examination in Nepal, Dahal could only secure second division. This had a disturbing psychological effect on Dahal, which he often talked about with his cadres. But Bhattarai tried to downplay this saying the party's political line was more important.

On ideological level, Bhattarai seemed to have an edge over Dahal. First of all his higher education allowed space for more knowledge and his interest in science and cosmology additionally allowed him to think strategically and holistically. Second, his joining Jawaharlal Nehru University, then a bastion of left movement, helped him understand Marxism. Third, his PhD thesis at JNU helped him analyze underdevelopment and regional structure of Nepal. He was more attuned to the world of freedom and thus was more concerned about democratic, participatory and inclusive agendas. Lastly Bhattarai had good relations with different parties in India while he was a JNU student. Thus he had wider exposure to various ideological trends and therefore he was more tolerant of differences in the party.

As for Dahal, with his difficult economic background and lack of good education and exposure, he used organizational power to stay in leadership. Lacking ideological supremacy he would often blame external forces for internal problems. He blamed foreign forces when there was a problem in the party or the country. Rather than grapple with real problems, he would smell conspiracy. Thus he was more comfortable with the Stalinist school, which operated in the world of necessity. For Dahal dictatorship of class meant dictatorship of the party and finally it meant dictatorship of the main leader.

While Bhattarai saw Marxism as a tool to come to truth through facts, Dahal tended to use Marxism as a 'quotation' tool. No wonder 'Prachanda Path' made it mandatory to popularize his photos and to quote him in speeches, political classes, articles and books.

For his central line to survive, Dahal needed to create two opposing tendencies so that he could mediate and make himself invincible. To achieve this, he made sure the two forces did not align. Dahal was a very skillful tactician. He was good at manipulative politics. As a result he was able to play in the contradictions between various forces of the old regime. However, when he started using the same manipulative politics in the Maoist party it was counterproductive. He would often allege Bhattarai of being a bourgeois if Bhattarai dared raise new ideological questions. But the same ideologies would be 'revolutionary' when expressed by Dahal. For example, the concept of CA, democratic republic and inclusive federalism were branded 'rightist' when Bhattarai raised them, but they became 'revolutionary' after Dahal uttered them after the people's war.

It is interesting that Dahal never faced police atrocity or even jail. Bhattarai and the rest of Maoist leadership faced both police atrocity and jail, several times.

For Dahal organizational question always preceded ideological question. His tactical moves were responsible for his vice-like grip of the Maoist party for so long. Because of his monolithic approach to organization he tended to gravitate to Baidya's line. He loved to be at the helm of all affairs. On the other hand, Bhattarai did not care much about exercising power through organization. His lack of interest in power had been his weak point. This had always made his followers exasperated. Because of this, he often had to compromise even when his line was passed. His own followers complained that Bhattarai could not provide them political security.

Temperamentally, Dahal was extrovert and dynamic, but also prone to extreme fluctuations. Often Dahal looked spineless as he always tried to maneuver between the lines of Bhattarai and Baidya. This affected not just the party but also national policy as it came in the way of important issues like constitution-making and army integration.

At his worst, Dahal would look like an opportunist because of his self-centric stands; Bhattarai, at his worst, looked like an idealist because of his principled stands. Dahal was a populist and enjoyed consumerism; Bhattarai was more of a stoic and detached from worldly pleasures. Dahal could be easily carried away by flattery but when criticized he could be vindictive; whereas Bhattarai could be easily carried away by intellect of a person without getting to know him or her up close. But Bhattarai did not allow the contradictions between him and Dahal to come in the way of party functioning, even when Dahal took political action against Bhattarai.

After coming over ground and having tasted power, Dahal seemed more and more hooked on the power game. He started getting addicted to number games, at the cost of political line. Take the example of the Balaju Extended meeting in August 2007. There he impressed on his cadres the need for CA elections but when around 75 percent cadres instead supported insurrection, he took a U-turn and convinced the mass that he too was in a mood for an insurrection and the CA line was just a fa├žade. Similarly, in Palungtar extended meeting in 2010, he adopted Kiran's hard-line even while he vouched for the CA line of Bhattarai. These contradictions weakened the CA agenda.

Similarly, while the PLA was in cantonments, he said the peace process was a facade to delude the bourgeois; and that it was important to prepare for insurrection. This weakened Maoist position and weakened its hand in army integration.

Bhattarai's relationship with Dahal became even more strained after Bhattarai became the prime minister. Dahal often hobnobbed with then President Ram Baran Yadav, who was against Bhattarai. Relation between Dahal and Bhattarai started to deteriorate further when Bhattarai made it known that he was now ready to take over party leadership in the upcoming convention as per the democratic spirit of the 21st century.

The last straw was Dahal telling cadres to organize a deepawali with Congress and UML cadres after the promulgation of new constitution, even though the party had forwarded 57 points of dissent. Dahal's eagerness to join the government was obvious. Bhattarai then left the Maoist Party in September 2015.

Hence the difference between Dahal and Bhattarai was never personal, it was always ideological: in their view of leadership, in organization structure and in their ways of reaching the masses. I feel sorry for Dahal for his recent publicity stunt about their relationship.

The author was Central Committee member of UCPN (Maoist) - See more at:

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